Nailing your pre race, post race and all important race nutrition could well be the difference between racing strong and enjoying a good day, and hitting the wall and suffering round the course. Furthermore, as a team sport it is not just you that is going to being slowed down - both teammates need to be fuelled correctly as you are only as fast as the slowest person.
Planning in a Swimrun race is a massive part of your day, and nutrition is just like your physical training. You need to plan, prepare and practice!
1. Find out what is going to be provided at the course aid stations
Perhaps you won't get on with the gels provided? Knowing how your body is going to react to what you put in it during race day will have a massive impact on your day.
Top Tip: Even if you don’t get on with a certain gel initially, with a bit of time often you can learn to get on with it. Using the gels provided is going to be preferable to carrying all your own gels.
2. Know the course and aid station locations
Having this information to hand will help you decide when to fuel and what to take from each aid station. It also gives you targets to aim towards during the race.
Top Tip: Write down the distances of each leg and have an idea of what each leg entails. Then have this available during the race. Writing distances on your hand paddles is a great way of having this information to hand.
3. Practice racing whilst carrying your food
Are you using pockets, putting things up your sleeves or have you decided to take a pack for nutrition and hydration? Test it out and make sure it’s practical, not restrictive and doesn’t chafe in any areas.
Top Tip: Many new Swimrun wetsuits now have built in practical pockets for carrying your nutrition.
4. Calculate how much nutrition are you going to consume
Work out how much food you can consume at any time during training. Sounds obvious but its amazing how many people will gorge on the tasty treats provided and then be faced with a hilly run on a full stomach.
Top Tip: Taking on a gel just before a swim section is easier on the stomach.
5. Always carry a spare gel
Even if you don’t need it, your swimrun teammate might - remember if they bonk you are staying with them. Both parties should always carry an emergency gel and if it gets used replace it at the next aid station.
Top Tip: If you can tolerate it, a caffeinated gel will supply a little extra boost if struggling.
6. Work out where you are going to store your litter
One of the best things about Swimrun is you are racing in areas of outstanding natural beauty. It’s down to you to keep it this way. Don’t litter!
Top Tip: Work out where you are going to stash your litter it so you can dispense of it at the next aid station. Tucked under the short leg of your wetsuit works well.
Something to consider for the future
In the world of endurance racing the term metabolic efficiency/flexibility is being bandied around more and more, and with good reason. The basic concept is training your body to be more efficient at burning your own fat stores for fuel whilst preserving your precious glycogen stores for when you really need it. The advantage of this is an unlimited supply of fuel. Even the skinniest person has upwards of 30,000 calories of fat stashed away - more than enough for any race. With training, you can teach your body to burn fat at higher intensities meaning that your body does not switch as quickly to your glycogen stores which only last for about two and a half hours.
The ways you can teach your body to do this are:
- Fasted training sessions: Start doing short low intensity exercise on an empty stomach in the morning and build gradually from there.
- Do not rely so heavily during most training on fast burning carbohydrates.
- Cut down the amount of fast burning carbohydrates in your diet such as processed foods, sugars, too much bread, pasta and rice and replace them with good fats and more vegetables.
One caveat is that it takes time to implement. Do not attempt this if your race is less than a month away. Also educate yourself on the topic of ‘High/Good Fat Low Carbohydrate’ HFLC. A good book to consider is: What the Fat? Sports Performance: Leaner, Fitter, Faster on Low-Carb Healthy Fat, by Professor Grant Schofield.
This just food for thought - especially if you plan a lot of endurance racing. The goal of this is that you will become less reliant on nutrition during the race and reduce your chances of hitting the wall, whilst cutting the amount of sugars and processed food leading to a healthier diet.
Alan is on half of Clapham Bruderwundez, the inaugural winners of Breca Swimrun in 2015. He is also the owner of Bikebox Buddy, which enables peer to peer hiring of bikebox’s and race wheels. He also writes a bikebox buddy blog too. His teammate is fellow Clapham Chaser and Embrace Sports coach Hamish Cropper. The Bruderwunderz will be back in Buttermere in July this year to defend their title.